Sunday, October 4, 2015

Munich vacation, final thoughts

Wow...we've been home for almost FIVE days now...and Munich seems like 10,000 miles away already...almost like it never happened (funny how vacations do come home and by the first day back at work it's almost like you never left). But we WERE there...and going thru my pictures brings it all back. Here are some last pictures that brought me right back to our stay in Munich...(and btw, I can hardly wait to go back!).

 John and Peggy with our FIRST beers in Munich. This  was after we had checked into the hotel, then went down to Marianplatz for our first meal after getting off the plane. We are all having a very tasty Weiss-bier (wheat beer). MMMMMMMMM! The beers are Schneider Weisse by the way.

Jeannie and I with OUR first beers! I LOVE GERMAN WEISS-BIERS!

 My first meal....pork cutlets and some kind of German potatoes (John could tell you what exactly they are). I LOVE THE FOOD HERE! I can't believe they all don't weigh 300 lbs here!

 Jeannie's first meal...some kind of brat (there's lots of them)...and they are ALL DELICIOUS! Also it comes with sauerkraut.

We thought this was interesting...if your car doesn't quite fit into the spot, you don't necessarily have to parallel park. Just drive in at an angle and leave...we saw this many times during our stay.

Here I am with ANOTHER Weiss-bier at a little cafe down at Marianplatz. Did I mention that I LOVE Weiss bier's? This one is from Augustiner.

Don't know the name of this building, but it's right where you come up from the train at Marianplatz. About half-way up is a life-size glockenspiel (the moving parts of a cuckoo clock that go round and round is my best explanation). It goes off every hour for about 10 minutes and is accompanied by music and bells tolling, and draws quite the crowd. It's an amazing building, certainly nothing like that here in the states.

This was my meal with Jeannie at another cafe...I think it's just pork roast with a potato dumpling, and the little strip on top of the pork is a strip of pig-skin that is super-crispy and amazingly DELICIOUS! I could live here! And this time I'm having a Lambier Weiss-bier.

In one of the grand halls, Jeannie and I (with John's friend David, who is attending his 30th CONSECUTIVE Oktoberfest btw) behind us giving us the two-thumbs up on our giant pretzel. Drinking beer and eating all day with 10,000 of your closest friends.....what a nice way to spend a few days! (and the 10,000 is just in the tent with us...there's probably at LEAST 200,000 people at the festival each day, likely many more).

Probably my FAVORITE food of Oktoberfest...the rotisserie chicken. I'm pretty sure they must be basting it with pure heroin or some other opiate drug, as it is the BEST CHICKEN I've ever had! 

 A Selfie-shot of our little group having a toast. L to R in a half-circle: John, Peggy, David (holding the beer), Jeannie and me. You can also see our serving girl directly in the back of our table...they work HARD...I have to guess in a typical day here she carries a thousand liters of beer to thirsty customers (just a could be WAY more).

The Lowenbrau hall....we never went in here but it's one of the major breweries. I recall as a young lad back in Montana (drinking age was 18) there was a place in Helena that sold Lowenbrau on tap, and it was my favorite. NEXT time I'm here I'll go in and have one of their beers and see if I still like it.

Just a shot of the crowd OUTSIDE the beer halls. There's a LOT of people here, and this is a weekday!

Another of the grand halls that we didn't go in. Maybe next time I'll make it a mission to have a beer in EVERY hall! It's do-able...but there is a LOT of them (especially if you count the smaller halls).

Here's a complete ox on the spit...(it's pretty huge). Don't see that too often! Jeannie got in line and had an Ox-sandwich...MMMMMMM!

Inside the Hacker Pschorr hall...the band in the middle of the crowd. They do quite a job putting up these halls, considering they only get used 16 days a year.

I think we're outside in the beer garden of Augustiner hall (our final day). John with a tray full of chickens.

Here I am with my LAST chicken of Oktoberfest 2015. The tastiest chicken on the planet and a liter of beer, hanging out with Jeannie, Peggy and John in Munich...what can be better than that?

Didn't really know this was a Bavarian thing...(I always thought it was Swiss)...the giant horns. They played a tune right in front of us out in the beer cool!

And this is my final picture from Germany. It's a giant poster in the train station showing the six breweries that supply beer for Oktoberfest. L to R they are Augistiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulanier and Spaten. I think the only ones I didn't have this trip were Spaten and Lowenbrau. I'll have to fix that next time.

All in all it was a FABULOUS trip. We didn't end up getting to see Neuschwanstein castle (it's the one that Walt Disney modeled his Magic Kingdom castle after). It's a long day to do that tour and we just couldn't get out of bed early enough (it's a few hours drive each way on the bus, and including the tour it's a good 10 hours of your day). Next time for SURE! And there WILL be a next time, that I can assure you! I'll get with Jeannie and John and start planning...maybe 3 years? It was a GREAT TIME, and I can only wonder why we waited so long to finally make this happen (which is what John has been telling us for YEARS. This was his 8th Oktoberfest). In honor of our trip I went down to a local craft-beer shop yesterday and bought the goods to brew a Weiss-bier, came home and brewed it. It's bubbling away in my spare bedroom right now...the recipe says it's a Franziskaner Weiss-bier clone...we shall see soon enough! I found that I can buy the Franziskaner at our local Trader Joes (imported and bottle-conditioned..which is about as good as a non-draft beer can get). Got me a six-pack back on Wednesday and have been having them every night since. I have two final pics to wrap up this post.

This is a liter mug and a liter of Paulanier that I brought home from Munich. I'm having it TONIGHT (Sunday) in honor of the LAST day of Oktoberfest 2015. Paulanier was the first tent/beer I had when we arrived at Oktoberfest. It's also now my last.

And with that, I declare this 2015 Oktoberfest and our adventure/vacation complete. Until next time.....PROST!

One FINAL this off of's a satellite picture of Oktoberfest...pretty cool! If you look REALLY close you can see me holding a beer and a half-chicken standing by the Augistiner tent!

Friday, September 25, 2015


Yesterday (Thursday) we toured the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Dachau is one of the few camps most everybody has heard of, however it wasn't an "extermination" camp that existed simply to kill people. It was a prison camp providing workers for various factories and construction all over the area. There were many sub-camps that were all part of the Dachau system. It was also the FIRST of the concentration camps and served as a model for the other camps. It opened in 1933, and back then the prisoners were actually Germans that Hitler had decided needed to be gotten rid of (his opposition to power). There had been a "terrorist" act in the German Parliament building (it burned down, no-one ever found out who did it) and due to this terrible act of crime, as Chancellor he was given the unconditional powers to arrest and hold anyone without any need of proof and no requirement for giving them a trial. His SS could knock down your door at any time of the day or night and take you away, where you'd likely never be seen again. In the early years Dachau was chock-full of political prisoners as Hitler got rid of any and all as he consolidated and increased his power.

Later as the war loomed/progressed and his conquest of Poland and other neighboring countries started to provide LOTS of new prisoners the camp grew and became the Dachau of these pictures, containing pretty much anybody who was a threat to his Nazi regime: Jews, Gypsies, intellectuals/scholars/professors, Jehovah Witnesses, priests, gays, and many more 'groups' of people he deemed a threat. Torture and beatings were daily occurrences, yet somehow the people who survived this evil place (and all the other camps) were able to physically and mentally rise above all that. I can't imagine how ANYBODY could have survived here. Food was a minimum, clothes were the bare essentials, and if you became sick and weren't able to work AND attend the twice-daily roll calls you were sent to the infirmary (which was likely a death-sentence as there was very little to no medical care for the prisoners, and your already unbelievably meager food rations were halved as you weren't working).

Our tour guide Eric outside the camp giving us the area layout. This black and white photo was taken days before the camps liberation in 1945. If you look around the top center and arcing around to the right you can see bomb craters. The Allies knew there was a camp of some sort here, but until they got here they really didn't know it's scope and purpose. Many prisoners throughout Germany were killed during allied bombings as they were slave labor at the factories keeping the German war-machine going.

 This is a blown-up portion of the above photo. The area inside A and B are the parts we toured. Inside area A is the 40 acres of the Dachau concentration camp...the 2 long rows of buildings were the infirmary and barracks buildings. Area B is the crematorium.  Above area A was an SS training camp where guards were trained for camps all over German occupied territory.

And speaking of camps and occupied territory, these next 2 shots show all the camps. Highlighted in black is the primary camp, and all the others are subsidiary camps. Dachau is just to the right of the lower center.

Most of the "extermination" camps were far to the east (such as Auschwitz).

This shot is blown up from the above picture, and you can clearly see the staggering number of camps associated with Dachau. Almost all of these were associated with factories and construction. Prisoners were moved in and out of the primary camp all the time to staff all the jobs that needed doing.

As a newly arriving prisoner, this is the view you'd see after getting off your train: 
the main entrance to Dachau.

Passing thru this iron gate takes you inside the camp to what would have been hell on earth.
The words Arbeit Macht Frei translates to "work makes you free" which was what they wanted you to believe. But it really meant work makes you dead, as does everything else here.

Walking along the edge of what was the upper row of barracks (as seen in the picture above), you can see the fence separating the prison camp from the SS training camp on the left. All of the original barracks buildings were torn down due to the sad state they were in back in the 60's. Only a few were re-constructed. You can still see all the original foundations for the barracks buildings.

Looking back the way we walked along the fence-line from the main entrance. You can clearly see the guard tower where guards sat trained to kill (and rewarded for doing so) with their machine guns. If you gathered in a group greater than 3 you could be shot without warning. If you stepped onto the grass you were obviously attempting to escape and would be killed. If they wanted to execute you they had to submit paper-work, but nobody ever questioned if a prisoner was killed trying to escape. Closer to the tower there is no ditch, but further away the dry ditch was maintained to slow you down giving the guards greater opportunity to kill you. If one of the guards didn't like you, he would take your cap and toss it onto the grass or in the ditch. You then had the choice to live without it (and freeze) or pray the guard isn't looking for a few moments as you hoped to retrieve it. Human life here had no meaning.

Here you can clearly see the dry ditch (it's about 4' deep).  Above the dry ditch in the gravel (hard to see) there are rows and coils of barbed wire on the ground extending about 8 feet or so away from the fence towards the ditch that you'd have to get thru before you ever got to the fence. Then the fence itself was electrified with 10,000 volts. Over the fence is a small river, and beyond that is the SS camp. There was no hope in this direction.

This black and white photo on the left shows the infirmary buildings, and also the human experimentation buildings. The Nazi's experimented on the prisoners here in many horrible ways. If you blow up the picture you can read the paragraph detailing what the areas were.

 Here is a reconstruction of a barracks room meant to hold 72 prisoners (that's how many 'bunks' there were). Typically there'd be over 200 men living in a room like this. The prisoners were required to maintain their barracks in a military "spotless" cleanliness. If there was a spot on the floor, somebody will get beat for it (25 lashes...remember this as I'll discuss it later). The next room had a small row of lockers which contained all your possessions (a bowl, cup, spoon, possibly an extra uniform or jacket and that's about it). During morning and evening roll call the SS would go thru the barracks inspecting it. If your coffee cup had a spot on it, you'd be beaten. Your bed (straw filled  mattress) and blanket had to be rolled/ folded and perfect. If anything was amiss you'd be beaten (25 lashes). You could be beaten for not standing just-right at roll call (feet together, hands at your side, head down NOT looking at the SS guards). You could be beaten for ANYTHING whatsoever. And keep in mind these people were not in prime physical condition. They were withered starving brutalized yet somehow still alive corpses, and somehow beyond my ability to fathom, they still had hope.

This is a picture of one of the barracks rooms after liberation (if you blow up the picture you can see an Allied soldiers helmet as he walks thru the barracks). The barracks were all horrifically overcrowded and if work details, starvation, beatings and cold didn't kill you, disease likely would.

I didn't include a few shots that I took, specifically the crematoriums and  oven, as it's just too grim to look at. Originally there were only 2 ovens at Dachu, but as the war progressed they weren't nearly enough to keep up with the dead so an entire new building was created that had 6 large ovens that could each hold 3 bodies at a time. Nor did I take pictures of the "extermination chamber" (gas room) where it is thought they didn't actually use here at Dachu (but no one can say with a certainty that they didn't).

Another thing Eric the tour guide brought up (that none of us thought to ask) was "where were all the women"? Dachu was strictly for men. Most of the Concentration camps were for men, and the vast majority of women (pretty much all those with children, and also the elderly) were sent straight to the extermination camps as they 'weren't needed'.

This photo (which is really quite disturbing) I chose to show you because of it's importance. It was designed and built by a survivor, and it represents the electrified fence around the camp, and what happens to humans when they come into contact with 10,000 volts (if you made it that far and weren't shot). Apparently it was a daily occurrence for people to commit suicide by running to the fence to end their suffering.

I also didn't take any pictures of where prisoners were tortured. There was a kind of table where they'd make you bend over on top of, where they'd beat you with "25 strikes" from a vicious cane made from bull-hide. Later on the Nazi's decided to have two SS men beat you with their canes at the same time, so the 50 hits were still considered only 25. When you arrived here, to have any chance at survival you'd first have to speak German. As they beat you for ANY infraction you would have to count out loud (in German) the number of the hits. If you messed up or didn't know the numbers in German they'd keep going and likely beat you to death right there. There was also some wooden beams up high that they would bind your hands behind your back and then hoist you up into the air by them, which would ultimately result in both your shoulders becoming dislocated as your body weight forces your arms around behind you and finally above your head. After they'd finally let you down (if you can imagine the sheer pain of that torture) you'd be sent on your way, but if you couldn't attend roll call and work the next day you'd be beaten or sent to the infirmary. 

I leave you from this very sad place with a picture of the "remains" of the unknown prisoner (much like our "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery). There is a law in Germany that any location that has been a cemetery (officially holding human remains) shall remain so in perpetuity. The remains of one of the untold thousands of prisoners who perished here are in this rectangular container, and by that means this place shall always be untouchable ground. Behind that on the wall written in the 5 most common languages of the prisoners held here is the inscription which is the purpose of maintaining this memorial camp (so that future generations won't forget what happened here). There's nothing more I can add to this picture.